A Marriage Made in Heaven
When my wife, Lenya, and I first started planning our wedding, we had very different ideas of what we wanted. I just wanted to be on the beach, wear shorts and flip flops, and have a hot dog roast. Lenya had a different program -- which we followed (wise choice on my part). The day of our wedding came, and I was a nervous wreck. Some of our guests said I looked like I was in physical pain -- which I was, because the tuxedo shop gave me shoes that were a size and a half too small. After the wedding, we had our marriage feast -- our lunch -- and, boy, was I looking forward to having a slice of the carrot cake. But after we took pictures and came back, the carrot cake had been devoured. It was a memorable day, to say the least.
Scripture tells us that a marriage feast will take place in heaven -- the marriage supper of the Lamb, the great celebration that Christians of all ages have looked forward to since they said yes to Jesus Christ. At the end of days, when the tribulation and the day of the Lord is finished, we'll have this supper with Christ: "'Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.' And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints" (Revelation 19:7-8).
Who is the bride in these verses? The church (see Ephesians 5:25-27; 2 Corinthians 11:2). The Lamb, Jesus, is the Bridegroom. This metaphor is based on the ancient Jewish form of marriage, in which there were three phases to the wedding: First, the formal engagement, which lasted about a year and in which there was no physical contact. Then there was the coming of the bridegroom on the wedding day: he would dress up, go to the house of the bride, and take her with him back to his house. Because they didn't have clocks, the bride had to get up early, get dressed, and be ready for him, because he could come at any moment. Then the formal ceremony and wedding feast took place at the groom's house, sometimes for days, before the bride and groom retired to their wedding chamber.
It's interesting to me that God chose this intimate picture to describe the relationship He wants to have with us, His church. Currently, we are in phase one of that arrangement: We're engaged to Jesus Christ. We have no physical contact -- we don't see Him -- but we're getting to know Him, living on the promise that one day He'll come for us. Phase two is when He enters the upper atmosphere and raptures the church to Himself (see 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). He'll literally sweep us off our feet, and we'll see Him as He is. The third phase is the marriage supper -- the celebratory feast -- and the culmination of our salvation: Jesus coming to the earth to set up His kingdom.
If you're a believer, you'll be at this wedding feast. But the drabness or lavishness of your wedding garment is largely determined by your obedience and service to Jesus right now on the earth -- on your "righteous acts" (v. 8). That doesn't mean you're saved by works -- you're saved by faith, by God's grace. But our position and rewards in the kingdom are clearly determined by what we do with our time, talents, and gifts here on earth (see 1 Corinthians 3:12-15; Matthew 6:19-20). So get ready for His return! Learn to grow to a place of maturity where serving Jesus Christ is natural to you.
I want to close with Revelation 19:9: "Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!" Let me be the one to invite you to that supper, if you haven't already accepted the invitation. The price has been paid; the ticket has been bought through the blood of Jesus Christ. The fact that God chose the metaphor of a bridegroom loving his bride to describe His love for us ought to strike joy in your heart. On my wedding day, when Lenya appeared at the end of the aisle, even though my feet were aching, I could only say, "Wow!" I only had eyes for her. And Jesus Christ only has eyes for you. He loves you. And the invitation goes out for you to be His bride and experience His love today.